Buying a laptop for college. Tell me what you think

FrenchieFrenchie Maryland
edited July 2012 in Hardware
I have been considering both of these options:
Thinkpad x230t (Convertible Tablet)
• Intel Core i5-3320M Processor (3M Cache, up to 3.30 GHz)
• Genuine Windows 7 Professional (64 bit)
• 12.5" Multitouch HD (1366x768) LED Backlit Display, Mobile Broadband Ready, 3x3 Antenna
• 4 GB PC3-12800 DDR3 (1 DIMM)
• UltraNav™ with TrackPoint® and buttonless multi-touchpad
• 320GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200rpm
• No Optical Drive
• 6 Cell ThinkPad Battery X67+
• None
• Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2200 (2x2 BGN)
• Mobile Broadband upgradable
• 1 Year Depot/Express Warranty
About $1100 with student discounts

Thinkpad t530
• Intel Core i5-3320M Processor (3M Cache, up to 3.30 GHz)
• Genuine Windows 7 Professional (64 bit)
• 15.6" HD+ (1600 x 900) LED Backlit AntiGlare Display, Mobile Broadband Ready
• NVIDIA NVS 5400M Graphics with Optimus Technology, 1GB DDR3 Memory
• 4 GB PC3-12800 DDR3 (1 DIMM)
• UltraNav without Fingerprint Reader
• 320GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200rpm
• DVD Recordable
• 9 Cell Li-Ion TWL 70++
• None
• Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2200 (2x2 BGN)
• Mobile Broadband upgradable
• 1 Year Depot/Express Warranty
About $850 with the current 3 day sale that is going on

I have been trying to decide if I really want the Convertible tablet. I think it is a really cool feature, I am just not sure it is worth $300 to me.

I also can't if I want the t530 if I want to get the 1600x900 res (For the $850 price) or the 1920x1080 (For an additional $150)

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Comments

  • fatcatfatcat Mizzou
    1920x1080 is the minimum resolution i would ever get
  • shwaipshwaip bluffin' with my muffin
    Will you also have a desktop?

    Your college / specific program may have suggestions for laptop minimum specs to buy as well.
  • FrenchieFrenchie Maryland
    Yes, I also have a desktop that I intend to use. But I want something to bring to class/have around campus.

    I will look to see what they recommend.
  • FrenchieFrenchie Maryland
    The laptop that they suggest is the Dell Latitude E6410. Which has the following:

    •Intel® Core™ i5-540M (2.53 GHz, 3M) with Turbo Boost Technology
    •Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 3
    •4.0GB, DDR3-1333 SDRAM, 2 DIMMS
    •512MB NVIDIA NVS 3100M discrete graphics with ExpressCard
  • FrenchieFrenchie Maryland
    Although that laptop is no longer manufactured, so the school's site may be a little bit out of date.
  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Geeky, in my own way Naples, FL
    Can you call the school's bookstore? See if they have one that they order for students?

    The second one will do you well I think, better if you have poorer vision also. It will be a bit bulkkier, but for classes you might want the bigger keyboard. I have a 1600X900 15.6" screen here, poorer vision, and it is adequate enough for my needs including photo editing. I do not game.
  • Some other things to consider:

    Thinkpad x230t (Convertible Tablet)
    Starting at 1.66kg (3.67lbs)
    Slim External Battery Pack (157 Wh) − up to
    18 hrs (with battery add-on)
    No Optical Drive
    Thinkpad t530

    2.5kgs (5.56lbs)
    Up to 24 hours with 9-cell and bottom slice
    battery (with battery add-on)
    DVD Recordable

    Do you actually need an optical drive? I haven't been a student for 2 years but I can't remember the last time I used a disc. Weight and battery are important factors, you have to lug this thing around to class along with your books. Also, are you going to be able to run it on A/C power during class or are you going to have to wait a while in between charges.
  • JBoogalooJBoogaloo This too shall pass... Alexandria, VA
    edited July 2012
    If you can swing it, I picked this up at Newegg last week for $1350 (including the 2yr service plan).
    newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834152348

    And if you get it, don't forget this either ($100 rebate good until 7/30). images10.newegg.com/uploadfilesfornewegg/rebate/SH/MSI34-152-348Jul15Jul3012cx61.pdf

    And besides, with a free 4gb Xbox thrown in too, who's to say you can't sell that and make a little money back as well ;)

  • FrenchieFrenchie Maryland
    I don't need an optical drive, it was just the option that added no cost. (Other options were a 32gb SSD or an additional 1TB HDD)

    And I think that the battery life of the t530 may be better because it's a 9 cell rather than the x230t having a 6 cell. Although I am unsure how much the screensize/other factors would effect the battery life.

    I also don't know if I find 5.5lbs to be too much weight. It seems like a rather manageable amount to me (It's not like those 11lb workstation laptops) and I have a nice backpack I intend to carry it in.

    Also I don't plan on doing Major gaming on the laptop (Maybe some LoL or DoTA2, but I would be fine with using lower settings, and I also plan to use my desktop for the majority of my gaming needs)

    Fatcat mentioned he would only buy 1980x1080+, is there a reason for this?

    And does anybody have any experience with "Convertible Tablets"? I would be getting one mainly so that I could write notes rather than type them. (I also want to be able to do some light drawing/sketching)
  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Geeky, in my own way Naples, FL
    I would say the days of doing decent drawings on a touch screen are yet to come, to be honest.

    The durable hinging of inexpensive convertible tablets is still in development, as far as I can determine(I looked around). There are some hyper-expensive tablets for folks who insist on input in writing stuff, but the software does not exist that will give you a real good quality conversion of rough touch input to smooth writing YET.

    So, some practical obstacles exist to truely writing legible notes on inexpensive devices as of now. In two years or so, maybe this will be wrong at price points college students can afford.
  • JBoogalooJBoogaloo This too shall pass... Alexandria, VA
    Typing notes seems so much easier than writing them and trying to decipher your own rushed hand writing. In my opinion, if you want to do light drawing/sketching stick with a pencil, paper, scanner and software. If you want to draw/sketch digitally with a natural feel go with a tablet accessory such as a wacom Intuous or Bamboo (small) or any other decent tablet coupled with PS, Corel, etc...just a thought.
  • FrenchieFrenchie Maryland
    Sounds good to me. I will go with a conventional laptop for now, and cross my fingers for the future.

    Now about the resolution. Will the higher resolution put more of a load on the system, therefore making it slower? Will it be noticeable at all?

    And I guess I should have mentioned it earlier but I am a CS (Well Software Engineering actually, but there isn't much difference) major, and will probably be using the computer for some Python/Java/C++ work (I am sure that the i5 3rd gen can handle it though).

    Also I am going with the lowest amount of Ram (4GB 1 DIMM) only because they want +$180 for the 8GB (2 DIMM) option and I am sure that I can buy it for less somewhere else.
  • fatcatfatcat Mizzou
    higher resolution allows you to do more. you can always lower game details, but you can't gain more pixels
  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Geeky, in my own way Naples, FL
    Other than pure usage, for higher res there is a small performance penalty. And there is a small battery life-between-charges penalty for higher quality graphics. For the comparison you gave, probably not noticeable.

    For software dev, pure processing power of the computer speeds up response of any dev environment you might use. Graphics are are almost irrelevant for that.
  • FrenchieFrenchie Maryland
    Thank you guys for all your information. I really appreciate it.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA
    Unless you start hitting REALLY heavy calculations, i.e. MATLAB simulations of bunches of particles or electricity or w/e magic it is that @Shwaip does, the i5 will be fine. Doing normal code compiling and dev in the listed languages should fly along just fine. Higher resolution is tougher only when doing graphically intensive things (like gaming), but as @fatcat said, you cannot gain pixels, but you can downsize games.
  • shwaipshwaip bluffin' with my muffin
    You need to decide what you want from the laptop. Do you just want something to take around to classes, take notes, write assignments? Then you don't need too much and having the tablet functionality might be important.

    Depending on your major, do you want to be able to run simulations/etc on your laptop? If no, then you can go for the smaller, cheaper options.

    If you have any sort of major work to do, can you just do it on your desktop (locally or remotely)? Does your school have a RDP lab? That way you could just remote access from your laptop, and you could get a less powerful laptop.
  • PetraPetra Palmdale, CA USA
    While I'm generally with fatcat on the resolution thing (1920x1080 being preferred, 1440x900 minimum), I'd be willing to compromise on the screen resolution for a good combination of portability, performance, and price. The Acer M5-481TG-6814 that my wife just picked up to replace her old MacBook Pro comes to mind here...it would be nearly perfect if it had a 1440x900 display instead of the 1366x768 panel.

    More to the point, for a college student who's majoring in CS/Software Engineering and looking for a laptop to supplement his desktop, I'd be most concerned with form factor and weight. Just about any modern laptop with a mobile i5 or faster will compile code well enough (in my experience, an old netbook with an Atom CPU (or something with a 366MHz PPC G3 CPU...don't ask) could get you through most college programming classes... assuming you can suffer through the cramped keyboard and useless 1024x600 display). Simulation is where everything falls apart, but I don't think that you'd be running into too much of that given your major.
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